Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Gets Me Interested in a Story?

It’s so much easier to tell you what doesn’t interest me in a story. The characters can draw me into the story but to keep me there the pacing better be fast forward much of the time. I don’t like huge amounts of setting and description just enough that I can picture the scene and see the characters.

Another thing I don’t like is pages of introspection. Thoughts can be boring unless it pertains to what is going on in the story. Something else I detest is reading about gratuitous sex. It’s boring, and I’ll skim through the scene so fast your head would spin. If the scene requires a love scene, then I’m all for it and if it’s a good one I’ll read it.

Something else I don’t like is the same old plot. How many times do you want to read about runaway brides, women with babies their spouses, boyfriends, etc., don’t know about, navy seals and on and on. What is wrong with writers? They read a story they like about a hero/heroine and they decide to write the same story with the very same characters. After a while it gets boring. Please come up with something new.

For instance, why can’t the hero be a soldier, sailor, marine, or someone ordinary instead of a navy seal, special ops, CIA, FBI, or mercenary? I have to admit here that I’ve done the very same thing, but the ordinary men and women in our military are brave heroes, too. It is only right to portray them as such instead of ignore them for what we think are more high profile characters.

Okay, I am going to get to what I want in a story. I want to read something with meat and potatoes to it. First, I want a hook, and I want emotion. This requires real depth to the characters and to the plot. I want to live what those characters are living and I want the plot to be believable. I want to care about those characters.

A story is good if it gives me something to think about, makes me keep reading until it is finished, and then stays in my mind for weeks, months and years. I remember the premise of a story I read years ago, but I don’t remember the title of the book. It was about survival, the people lived below ground because the air above was tainted, but there were those who survived above ground. They wanted to go underground, but the ones who were already there wouldn’t allow them to come down because they were contaminated. This could have been a movie, too, but whatever it was it always stuck with me.

The story had a great beginning (hook) and it only grew from there as there was fighting between the two groups. The conflict started immediately, it intensified and with a plausible plot that could happen in real life the story held my attention to the end. There was even a love story.

Tell me what you want in a book.



Liena Ferror said...

You pretty much nailed everything that I like to see in a story. I've been reading a series with more than twenty books in it because it set its hooks in me and hasn't let go yet. That is what I like. To get hooked and pulled in.

Great post, Sandy!


Sandy said...

Thanks, Liena.

Readers used to like huge amounts of descriptive setting, but our tastes change.

Linda LaRoque said...

Great post, Sandy. I too skim many of the sex scenes. I'd love to know the name of the story about the people living underground.

Literary writers can get by with loads of description but the rest of us can't. I admit I love description and have to be careful not to over do it.

Anonymous said...

so right Sandy, I think readers used to love a lot of detail, setting and so on.
As a matter of fact if you look at a lot of really old books, 19th century ones, you'll see everything you've been warned not to do! as in telling instead of showing!
great post, makes me think.
But you hit on it in your blog today Sandy.
The hook is conflict, some sort of conflict that pulls the reader right in.
You said in your last paragraph, 'the conflict started immediately..'
totally agree. a conflict right away is the hook that gets me hooked!

April Ash said...

Same here...I don't like a lot of setting and overly-descriptive stories. I tend to "speed read" through those sections.
Lots of dialogue and action is important.
And, I'm tired of reading the same old stuff, too. Give me a romance book with something different, something new. Maybe that's why I gravitate to ebooks and their stories that go "outside the box" that more traditional publishers force-feed the public over and over again.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

I'll echo what the others have said - you nailed it down perfectly!

I like 'out of the box' too, or a good spin on what's been done. I want to be on the edge of my seat with a story in the sense that I don't know what will happen on the next page, and this keeps me guessing and makes me want to continue reading. Good characters do this for me, as well as a believable plot.

Good post, Sandy!



Sandy said...


Thanks for your comment.

The only problem is that the literary writers don't sell well these days.

Sandy said...


Some of those books in the 19th century were in my grandmother's library. lol I loved them then, but we outgrew them.

We have to keep up with our readers.

Thanks for coming by.

Sandy said...

Hi April,

Thanks for that comment.

Yes, I hear all the time that readers want something different, but the big NY publishers aren't paying attention.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Z. I'm glad you liked it.

If anyone can can outside of the box it's you and T.J. Wink!

Rae Lori said...

Yup! Usually a different or unusual storyline catches my eye too these days. I'm also finding myself skipping most of the sex scenes especially if they feel too in my face. I don't really mind stories with lots of description as long it doesn't feel like a travelogue lol.

Love this post, Sandy. I couldn't agree more with all the points. :-D